Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Just Right Parenting Style-Part 3

Today's installment  is the "just right" parent. Just like in Goldilocks And The Three Bears, we have the parent who is too "hot", the authoritarian parent, the too "cold" parent, the permissive one, and now we have the "just right" parent the authoritative one. This parent gets that their teen is becoming their own person. This parent understands that the goal of parenting a teen is to gradually, over the 6 years of teendom( ages 12-18), first to share control and then finally to cede control over the lives of the teen as they leave the nest. The teen years are a training ground for adulthood. Learning to make safe and healthy decisions about relationships, life's temptations, education and career take practice. Practice makes perfect.  An authoritative parent understands that part of practice includes making mistakes. An authoritative parent understands that their kids are not supposed to be mirror images of themselves. They get that their teen has a unique personality and temperament that needs to be respected, supported and nurtured, even if that means adjusting their own expectations of who they hoped this growing child would become.

An authoritative parent understands that a teen still needs structure in their life to be successful, but rather than imposing one, works with their teen to develop one together. Understanding that getting a teen to "buy in" and take ownership of rules and expectations means you have to include them in the planning and implementation of them. This takes time, and I know, it is so much easier to just say nothing as with the permissive parent, or just do it for them, as with the authoritarian parent.  Keeping the ultimate goal in mind really helps. All parents want their kids to be successful adults. If we overprotect or under protect  our kids, they will be dependent on us for life. And by the way, you are going to want them to be able to take care of you someday, so you better get crackin!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Parenting Style-Part 2

In today's episode of Understanding Your Parenting Style, we look at the permissive parent. In this style of parenting we might hear things like: "no problem, okay, see you whenever, sure, have fun, love you."This all sounds so nice, so loving, so calm, where's the problem in that?  Here is the problem, the teen in this situation is not required to think, to assess, to plan, to be responsible to anyone but him/herself. Adolescence by nature and definition is all about self-centeredness. We know that a certain amount of this self-centeredness is natural and normal, but if we add to it, by not presenting alternative perspectives we create narcissistic adults, as in "I want what I want when I want it!"  More importantly these teens are often engaged in dangerous and risky behavior because they live in a world with no boundaries. Expectations from parents may be inconsistent or non-existent. For example I often work with parents when their teen's behavior has become out of control. In many of these families there are high expectations when it comes to academic performance by no expectations around behavior. So kids "get" that if they do well in school, the rest of their life will be free from restraint.  It is an unspoken quid pro quo.

Here is what I think contributes to parent permissiveness. Many of us hate hate hate conflict. We will go to any extreme to avoid argument and disagreement. So rather than say "no" or "we need to discuss this" or "I need to hear your plan before I make a decision" this parent goes right to the sure, love you place. Parenting an adolescence requires conflict, welcomes conflict, and invites conflict. This is how we make our teens use their new developing brain to learn how to make decisions. We disagree, we argue, we force them to think, to weigh options, to plan and to decide.  So if you are uncomfortable with conflict, learn to wallow in. The worst that can happen is that your teen might momentarily hate you. But they' will get over it, and when they become young adults will thank you for helping them to become thoughtful and responsible people.

Additionally the conflict-avoiders also to to be the kinds of parents who want their teens and their teens friends to think of them as the cool parents. They want their kids to want to hang out with them, and to use their house as "the house". This often means turning a blind eye to situations that other parents aren't comfortable with like "sex, drugs and rock and roll." The permissive parent's house tends to become the "safe house" for their kids and kid's friends. Let me just say that you can still have a great relationship with your kid and kid's friends without being an enabler. Your primary job is to be the bouncer not the party host, and I mean that both literally and figuratively.

Another contributing factor in permissive parenting is allowing our own needs and wants to take priority.  I have a very vivid memory of being out to a lovely restaurant with my husband. We were seated next to a group that consisted of two couples and their collective four children. The couples were enjoying their cocktails and conversation with each other leaving their young kids to fend for themselves. The kids, bored at this fancy restaurant entertained themselves by kicking our booth, and throwing over napkins and food. The parents were oblivious to it all until management changed our table, and my wonderful husband gave them "a little feedback on parenting." Though this story is about younger children, fast-forward to this family 5 years later. Parents still have a busy work and social life, and are excited now that their kids are teens they can leave them to their own devices, no babysitters needed. These teens are often left unsupervised for evenings, maybe even weekends while parents attend to whatever it is they want or need to do. Without sounding preachy here, OK I am preaching here, parenting does require sacrifice. So many parents I know spend most weekend nights babysitting their home, not their kids. They "get" that though their kids don't need babysitters anymore, their house does. Leaving an empty house is a public invitation to party. Also when you are available to your kids, it makes them feel secure that if they need you, they can have you. Teens need to feel that they are still your first priority, and that you are always looking out for their safety and well-being.

Stay tuned for part 3: The authoritative parent.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What's Your Parenting Style? Part 1

I thought for the next three blogs, I would do a primer on the three major parenting styles, kind of like those quizzes you can take in magazines. Rate your marriage or your sex life, or are you a half -full or half-empty kind of person?  You know the ones where you get a "1" for the answers that make you sound the most sane, and a "5" for the ones that make you sound crazy. I don't know why but I love those quizzes. I think because I am always looking for ways to evaluate how I am doing in life. Am I OK? yes! phew!! Or, oh god, is it really that bad, oy vey!

Understanding your parenting style might help you to understand your relationship with your teen. Parenting a teen is not the same as parenting a younger child. It requires a different set of skills: an ability to be flexible, but not too flexible; understanding, but not a push-over; willing to take a stand and set limits, but not like a marine sergeant.  Let's see how you roll.

Lets start with the "authoritarian" parenting style. You might hear things from this parent like the old favorite: "it's my way or the highway", or "my house, my rules", and lets not forget, "if you don't like it, then get out." Clearly this is a parent who likes to be in control. When you are this type of parent and you have young children it works well. Young children love rules and structure. They love to please mommy and daddy, and are all around lovely little beings to have around. The problem occurs in adolescence when your teen is not so motivated to please and follow your rules. Since they are biologically driven to start to fend for themselves, being told the what, when and how to do things goes against the natural order of the developing teen.

 If you have parented this way in the past, you will have a rude awakening. Things can go badly in two possible ways. First, if your teen is somewhat passive, quiet in nature, or has a really good understanding that you need to be control, they will tend to yes you to death, looking like the pleasing child they have always been, and fly under your radar by excessively lying. Rather then incurring your wrath they will try to avoid it. They learn some valuable lessons here in manipulation. They learn just how to play you so that you feel the illusion of being in control, but basically have figured out to do exactly what they want to do, just behind your back. The worry here is that your teen never comes to you for help because they anticipate that you won't really want to listen. The danger is that they could be in an unsafe situation and rather than come to you will risk themselves rather than risk getting in trouble with you. Not a great gamble.

The second scenario with the authoritarian style of parenting occurs if you have a teen who is feisty in nature. Now that they are bigger, and they think smarter than you, they will fight you every step of the way, which often becomes all out warfare. "You can't make me, and you aren't the boss of me" are daily mantras. In this situation, you have run out of ideas. You have taken away everything you can, phone, computer, car. You have grounded them for months at a time, but rather than taming the beast that has become your teen, it has enraged him/her, like King Kong being assaulted by all those airplanes. The danger here is that your teen now has nothing left to lose, the relationship is damaged. In this situation, the teen is feeling their power. Their ability to challenge your authority, and drive you completely insane is intoxicating. The balance of power in your relationship has shifted, and they are loving it.

Give yourself a 5 if this is your style of parenting. Stay tuned tomorrow for part 2: The Permissive Parent.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Matter Of Money!

Unless you are comfortably wealthy, most parents these days are using up their retirement portfolios, giving up restaurants, vacations, new cars and any other perk that one usually looks forward to in mid-life, to pay for their kids to go to college and have the freedom from debt as they start their young adult life. And most parents I know who do this, do it freely and with love.  It is only when the semester grades start coming in, or the epidemic of changing one's major multiple times, that requires students to take additional courses (read more money) for their interest of the year, that parents start to wonder about the return on their investment. Many students I know are now on the 5 year plan due to flunked classes, need to make up credits or change of heart in what they want to study or do with their life. And because they have not been a part of the financial planning for their college career, and because they live in a fantasy world when it comes to money, and because many parents are afraid to talk money with their kids, they are not taking much responsibility for these decisions. Kids seem to want more, fancy phones, expensive video games, unlimited supply of clothes, and parents work hard to give them more. We aren't doing them any favors. Before they go to college is when they need to learn the meaning of money.

How many of your kids have any idea what their phone bill is, or their computer or cable bill that allows them to order movies on demand without regard to the extra $6.99 that appears on your bill.
How will your teens ever develop an appreciation for what things cost unless you teach them. I am a big advocate whether you are a family of means or a family where you need to count every penny, that you have a monthly date to go over the bills. Let them see just how many movies they did order and what the cost was. How much their portion of their cell phone cost. Dollars and cents, they need the reality. So much of teens lives in this 21st century make it easy to live in lalaland. They can say things without consequence through impersonal devices, they can order things without using the old fashioned greenback, and so it is no surprise that when they go off to college with a car full of new clothes and comforters that it feels magical. They absolutely need to know that college can cost up to $50,000 a year, and that is a sh**load of money.

Start teaching them now. They may not have to pay the bills, but at least let them know that it all costs the real deal...money. Maybe there is a limit on downloads and uploads, and scanning the bills together you develop some budget items. Let them know that mediocrity is not acceptable for college when everyone in the family sacrifices for their ability to go. A little guilt never hurt! And more importantly, obstacle and challenge make the journey to success so much more meaningful.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Getting Honest

Part of the fun of having my book : A Survival Guide To Parenting Teens; Talking To Your Kids About Sexting, Drinking, Drugs, and Other Things That Freak You Out, published a few years ago, was that I got to do all kinds of fun interviews that made me think. Here is an interview I did for the website: Good enough Mother. It was challenging and made me think about my life and get really honest with myself.  How might you answer these questions?
http://www.goodenoughmother.com/2014/09/life-lessons-joani-geltman/


Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Trials And Tribulations Of Summer Vacating With Your Teen

I've had a number of frantic calls this summer from parents who have either planned a fabulous family vacation, and their teen is kvetching and complaining that they don't want to go, OR they just came back from a family vacation and their teen stubbornly did not participate or appreciate the vacation the family took, spending too much time on their phones and avoiding family fun bonding time!

When your teens were younger, the "family" vacation was mythical. Something to look forward to, something to get your kids though the winter doldrums and that last month of school when you can taste summer but can't experience it yet. Fast forward to the teen years. "We're going to the cape again....Europe!!!! who wants to spend my summer looking at churches and museums. Wah wah, I'll miss my friends."

First don't get hooked into that argument or come back with a "Do you know how lucky you are?" lecture. In this moment, being separated from friends, and possibly missing out on some amazing party, concert, or hang session is all they can focus out. You don't need to argue or convince, just listen, and then say " I get that this feels hard and I know that you're worried you might miss out on something fun." And then just stop there. You know they are going, and that this is not an optional trip. If you allow yourself to get hooked into an argument they will never stop hoping that if they wear you down, you'll leave them at home with a friend. Just let them vent.

In addition to the venting strategy, do try to include them in the planning. If they feel included in the decision-making you will get much less resistance. Maybe the dates aren't flexible but the what of the trip is still open to discussion. Maybe it's to visit family, or go to a vacation destination that you have been going to for years, or maybe you are lucky enough to travel to some exotic location. Make sure that the activities you choose to do where ever you go, take into account who each of your kids are, and their personal interests . If they love sports, then find a local soccer/tennis/ baseball game that might spark their interest. Or if they like amusement parks, or shopping malls, beaches, pools, zoos, you get the idea. Your idea of what to see and do, may be the antithesis of what they like to do. Ask them to look on the Internet for something in the location that they might like to do. Including them in the planning is a sign of respect. And respect leads to accommodation. Just don't expect smiles and gratitude. You'll get that in 10 years as they look back on their youth and tell you how amazing that trip was that you took when they were 16. As you think, OMG you were a pain in the ass on that trip. Now you tell me you had fun!!! Go figure.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Curse Of Summer Reading Lists

OK, the summer is exactly one half over, and crumbled up summer reading lists are being found and resurrected by parents everywhere. Most kids have spent the summer avoiding your queries about the reading by saying, "I'll do it, I have the whole summer, just leave me alone!!!" Well the whole summer is now down to 4 weeks and the books have been bought, Kindled or Nooked depending on the summer bribe. "If I buy you a Kindle/Nook, will you do the reading?" Your kid, panting like a dog who sees a new treat coming his/her way has promised that yes yes yes I will do the reading if you buy me off, I mean buy me a Kindle/Nook. But listen, it doesn't matter what form the book is in, it is still reading and might/could be way less exciting than say sitting on the couch texting/facebooking/videogaming/tv or movie watching or studying one's navel.

So here are a few strategies to get the reading done before school starts before you have to resort to the threats of no phone, no computer no life until you finish your reading.
  • Sit with your kid and add up the number of pages that need to be read by the start of school. Get out the old calculator and number of pages from each book and add together. Divide that number by the number of days left before school and you now have a PPD (pages per day) your kid needs to complete. When you break it down this way, it is far less intimidating. Most kids avoid the summer reading because it seems daunting. Maybe they have 3 or 4 books to read, and the image they have is just hours and hours of reading to complete it, so pretending it doesn't exist is much easier. Having to read 20 pages a day may not seem as bad.
  •   Set aside a reading time. Not on your schedule but a time of day that your kid feels is do-able. Get your book, take your kid to Starbucks, get him/her a Mochachino and read together for 30 minutes or an hour. Pair the reading with something pleasurable.
    • If your kid continues to be resistant to follow-through, pair reading with favors. For example, if the PPD has not been completed and your kid asks for a ride, some money, clean laundry etc you can say: "I would love to help you out, but I noticed you haven't done your PPD today, and I don't really feel like complying with your request until you do. I get this reading stuff is hard for you, but it's just something you gotta do.
    • Get the reading list books on tape. Some kids might be more motivated if they were hearing them rather than reading them. Put them on in the car while you are driving. Put it on an old CD player and let them listen with earphones, bring it to the beach and they can tan and "read" at the same time.   
    Get creative.  Just hucking your kid to do the reading is not going to get the job done. You have to "understand" their resistance, rather than criticize it, and help them to develop a plan that makes the impossible seem possible. 

    PS. I am now booking for this upcoming school year seminars. Have Joani will travel..anywhere!! Last year, I spoke in California, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Below are the seminars I offer. Talk to your PTOs, religious organizations, community groups or businesses about presenting one of these to your community. I promise it will be fun and informative! Contact me for pricing and availability

    Adolescent Psychology: The Parent Version 


    • Learn how the brain affects your teen’s behavior. It’s the battle of the thinking brain VS the feeling brain.
    • Learn Effective strategies for arguing-The Four Ways Of Fighting.
    • Develop effective strategies for keeping your teen safe as they explore the new world of teen life.
    • Learn how to teen-proof your home and cell-proof your teen

    Sexting. Texting and Social Networking: What’s A Parent To Do? 
    • Understand how the “emotional brain” of a teen gets “turned on” by social networking.
    • Understand how the “Imaginary Audience” influences your teen’s performing on social media.
    • Learn which apps are safe and unsafe
    • Learn strategies to monitor and set limits around phone and internet use
    • Learn how your own behavior with phones and computers can positively and negatively influence your teen.

    Drugs and Alcohol: How Does Your Teen’s Personality Style, and Your Parenting Style impact their experimentation with drugs and alcohol? 
    • Identify your teen’s personality style and risk-factors with drugs and alcohol
    • Identify your parenting style and how it influences your teen’s drug and alcohol use
    • Learn effective strategies and scripts to keep your teen safe
      

    Joani’s Top Ten Parenting Tips 
    The secret to parenting is to keep it simple. Learn 10 simple, concrete practical tips useful in those daily moments of stress as a parent when you wish you had the "right thing to do and the right thing to say!


     Joani Geltman MSW     781-910-1770    joanigeltman.com